Ranking Todd Boehly mistakes at Chelsea: Lampard fourth as daft new contracts make the cut
Todd Boehly may well be regretting his purchase of Chelsea Football Club. The poor billionaire’s had a rough time of it since riding in as the white knight of Stamford Bridge.
He’s got himself to blame for most of the nonsense though and we’ve ranked the mistakes he’s made in his first season at the helm. We’re updating it pretty frequently…
16) Premier League All-Stars
Starting a pitch by claiming the Premier League could “learn a lesson from American sports” was never going to go down well, and Boehly’s suggestion of a North versus South All-Star game was predictably met with xenophobically tinged responses from people who Know English Football.
It appeared to be an offhand comment made with the best intentions of giving back to the football pyramid, but the one extra game in the calendar that, let’s face it, loads of people would watch and would provide millions of pounds for smaller clubs was a terrible idea as everyone would definitely get injured during that one specific, half-arsed game.
15) The Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne academy
At that same New York conference in September Boehly claimed Chelsea have “one of the best academies in the world”, which is arguable, but using Salah and De Bruyne to evidence the worth of that academy rather sullies the argument, and by association any other point about Chelsea or football in general.
Salah broke through at Egyptian side Al Mokawloon before moving to Basel, while De Bruyne made the first team at Genk before a transfer to Chelsea. And namedropping either of those two players to attest to Chelsea’s excellence in developing players is unwise.
Using Boehly’s earlier All-Star comments against him, Thierry Henry advised the American owner to “learn your own lessons and then come back and teach us something” in reference to his lack of knowledge on the history of his own football club.
14) ‘Disrespecting’ Benfica over Enzo Fernandez
All’s well that ends well, right? Well, Chelsea did get Enzo Fernandez but aren’t now on the best of terms with Benfica, who will no doubt have a player or two they’ll want in the future.
Benfica boss Roger Schmidt wasn’t at all happy with Chelsea’s approach for Fernandez. Referred to as “the club who wants Enzo”, like they’re a footballing Lord Voldermort, Chelsea were accused of making the midfielder “crazy” through suggesting they would meet his £106m release clause, then not doing so, before meeting the Portuguese club’s demands in the end.
13) Outsourcing medical work
To be fair, dismissed pair Paco Biosca and Thierry Laurent weren’t doing a great job last season as medical chief and head physio – Chelsea topped the injury count in the Premier League last season with 97 according to Howden’s European Football Injury Index. But the injury problems have ramped up since Boehly decided to outsource some of the medical work to a private physiotherapy company.
That decision – which results in nonsensical situations like Wesley Fofana having to fly to America for a medical – preceded Chelsea’s ludicrous injury list. Denis Zakaria, Reece James, Raheem Sterling, N’Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Armando Broja, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic, Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva have all spent significant time on the sidelines this season.
Chelsea ‘launched a medical review’ with reports claiming players are unhappy with Biosca and Laurent’s departure and, in some cases, believe they have been rushed back too soon.
12) Pushing for Anthony Gordon
Remember this insanity? By Gordon’s own admission Chelsea’s £60m bid for him was “absolutely crazy”. ‘But I’m not very good at football,’ he presumably thought, along with the rest of us. Tuchel didn’t want Gordon – because he’s watched him play football before – but Boehly was desperate to sign a player who’s got seven goals and three assists in 70 Premier League appearances, couldn’t hold down a place at a team battling relegation and now can’t get a game at Newcastle.
11) Dressing room faux pas
Football is arguably too precious about dressing rooms. While American sports allow journalists and fans into their ‘inner sanctums’, footballers and managers appear to want some sort of CBD check for anyone thinking of setting foot in the holiest of all places.
The Chelsea players were ‘taken aback’ when Mykhaylo Mudryk and his entourage were granted entry with Booehly ahead of the Crystal Palace game back in January, but actually it sounds entirely reasonable to introduce a new signing to the players before a game.
However, attempting to bring a group of guests and their children, with no particular affiliation to Chelsea, into the dressing room at half-time in a Premier League game, is a bold move, not least because bringing children into a dressing room with adult men, who could be changing, could be swearing, could be doing anything, feels all wrong.
Thomas Tuchel told Boehly to do one, and was sacked four days later.
10) ‘Embarrassing’ rant
We don’t know everything about what happened, but what we do know is he called the players “embarrassing”, singled a senior player out for criticism leaving them ‘disillusioned’, and at least one onlooker thought it was “weird”. It doesn’t sound great.
Arsene Wenger reckons the new manager should have an anti-Boehly clause inserted in their contract. It appears that clause is already in place for the sport of football as a whole.
9) Paying £62m for Marc Cucurella
His bizarre intervention to gift Aston Villa their opener at the start of April was one of many errors for the club but actually it’s generally not looking equipped to play football at the highest level that’s more of a concern.
The price of Cucurella points to a wider issue for Boehly, who appears to continually have his pants pulled down over transfer fees. They ended up doubling their initial offer for Wesley Fofana, eventually landing him for £75m, shelled out £9m for six months of Joao Felix, plus his hefty weekly wages, £88m on Mudryk, £106m on Fernandez, and close to £600m in total on players, none of whom have yet proved to be worth anywhere near their various, generally exorbitant, transfer fees.
8) Signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Given we were told by Boehly that the club’s decision to sack Tuchel was made over a stretch of time and not as a result of the defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, how the hell can he explain the signing of Aubameyang? He’s a 33-year-old striker, who was infamously kicked out of Arsenal for being a bad influence in the dressing room, signed purely because he scored a load of goals under Tuchel seven years ago.
Aubameyang’s already ‘depressed’ and desperate to leave but can’t go back to Barcelona because he can’t be registered three times in a single season. A stunning waste of money.
7) Failed hijacks
When this list was first published in mid-January this section was also titled ‘failed hijacks’ as we questioned why the result of cherry-picking people that we assumed were among the best in the business from Brighton, RB Leipzig and elsewhere to oversee all things transfers, those individuals appeared to be engaging with the market in the same way anyone with an interest in football with access to the interweb might – gossip columns.
And although we very quickly had egg thrown in our face as Mykhaylo Mudryk did in fact end up hog-tied and brought to Chelsea over Arsenal, the ‘failed hijacks’ title still works just fine. Arsenal got Leandro Trossard, who’s been brilliant for Arsenal, and Chelsea got Mudryk, who resembles a lost puppy and shoots as though his right foot is made of sweaty salami.
Good thing Boehly’s tied him down for eight years.
6) Snubbing Mason Mount
The problem isn’t the negotiation of Mount’s contract. Boehly wants his players on long-term deals heavily weighted towards bonus-related payments; Mount wants a shorter contract with a nailed on salary. Both stances are reasonable.
Boehly’s mistake was in telling Mount that he would be sold in the summer if they couldn’t come to an agreement. That too is in line with his new Chelsea policy of not allowing players to enter the final year of their contract, and he can absolutely think that privately and action it if it comes to pass. But you don’t tell the guy that.
Because that is what’s reportedly pushing Mount towards Liverpool more than anything. Not the disagreement over the contract, but being told by his boyhood club – for whom he’s been among the standout players for the last three seasons – that he’s dispensable. All that this mess has served to do so far is cause some of the fans (the daft ones) to slate Mount on social media.
5) Performance-related contracts
It’s one of those things that sounds far better than it actually is. It seems reasonable to pay players in a team according to how well that team has done. One problem is at some point (now and for the foreseeable) there are going to be some players negatively affected by the team’s poor performance and others – those with their wages assured – that will not. Why should Hakim Ziyech be paid his full whack while Enzo Fernandez suffers? It’s understandably causing issues in the dressing room.
What happens next season, if someone on one of the new contracts scores 20+ goals – desperately unlikely though that sounds – but his teammates have another shocker and they miss out on Champions League football again? That player is essentially being punished for a job well done.
And although this new system hasn’t seemingly been an issue so far in the transfer market, given the competition for Champions League spots in the Premier League, and the way in which Chelsea have royally screwed the pooch this season, a similar club with a secured pay packet would surely hold an advantage in future.
4) Re-apppointing Frank Lampard
The reason re-appointing Lampard isn’t top of this list is because it doesn’t really matter, unless the unlikely results actually happen, and Mauricio Pochettino is the light at the end of the tunnel.
But let’s be clear, re-hiring Lampard is completely f***ing mental. To think all that group of players needed was a pep-talk from a club legend perfectly illustrates how deluded Boehly is. It’s now five defeats in five for Chelsea under Lampard, who will be lucky ever to work again, let alone in the Premier League.
3) Not buying a striker
OK, Chelsea did buy Aubameyang and David Datro Fofana, but come on! All these mistakes provide proof if you needed it that Boehly knows sweet f*** all about football, but even he must know the importance of having someone in the team who can put the ball in the goal hole.
He’s spent £122m on central midfielders, £137m on centre-backs, £84m on full-backs, £204m on wingers and just £21m on strikers. That would be foolish in any circumstance, but given Chelsea’s top scorer last season was Mason Mount with 11, you would think buying a striker would be priority number one.
2) Hiring Graham Potter
Let’s not claim now that is wasn’t an exciting appointment. Potter could have been the man to usher in a new dawn at Chelsea. And yet, in his bid to be nothing like Roman Abramovich, Todd Boehly is being very like Roman Abramovich, sacking two managers in his first season at the club.
That’s mainly because the one thing he has no power over is the fans. He was said to be surprised by the strength of anger at Chelsea’s performances under Potter, and realised that he had no choice but to show him the door with his own relationship with the fanbase at risk.
Boehly probably thought he had given Potter all the resources required to be successful. He brought many of his backroom staff with him from Brighton and bought him a sh*tload of players. But he couldn’t grant Potter time on the training ground having hired him after pre-season and made it very difficult indeed for his manager to build relationships with the players as there are just so damn many of them.
1) Sacking Thomas Tuchel
“It wasn’t a decision that was made about a single win or loss, it was made about what we thought was the right vision for the club.” It’s a shame Boehly’s vision couldn’t include the manager who had won the Champions League a year previously and had taken Chelsea to six finals. It’s also a shame Boehly’s vision wasn’t apparent before he spent £270m on players for the manager he would then sack five days after the summer transfer window closed.
Simon Jordan reckons the secret reasons behind Tuchel’s Chelsea sacking would “make people’s eyes water” but on the face of it the decision looked incredibly rash, and the timing downright ridiculous. It meant Potter, who could have been given a summer to train with a new squad and make additions, was instead thrown in the deep end with a mismatched group of Tuchel’s players and drowned.
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